Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rigging the Electoral Game

Chris Redfern, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, announced today that he would be filing a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn the Congressional redistricting bill passed last week by the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly. Redfern denounced the legislation, House Bill 319, as “ a blatantly partisan congressional map that dilutes important Democratic constituencies and attacks the very foundation of our political process.”

It’s good to see the Democrats show some spunk. The Republican playbook seems to contain an injunction that if they gain an inch, they should transform it into two miles. I guess that’s what the party of corporate interests does in a capitalist society.

Ohio has long been regarded as a bellwether state in national elections, a barometer of political winds, if you will, that both forecasts and reflects short-term changes in the weather. The GOP is working to transform both Congressional and statehouse districts into cold-weather thermostats that will permanently freeze the range of choices available to voters. In the process, they have displayed ruthless zeal in carving up communities [examples: four different Congress people would represent a part of Cuyahoga County; Toledo would be split into three districts.].

The Republican message to Ohio voters of all parties or no party, of whatever county or color, is a paraphrase of Moe Greene's remark to Michael Corleone upon the latter's arrival in Las Vegas to buy controlling interest in the casino: " You think you can come to the polls and decide who you want to represent you? No! You don't elect me: I choose you."

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GOP zeal in district distortion does not diminish the continued cunning use of racial elements in non-post racial America. While new Congressional districts increase chances for a Columbus-area African American congressional representative to be elected, the state district guidelines create ten majority-minority districts.

This is called having your cake and eating it too. The net effect of all this extensive gerrymandering may be to produce more black elected officials who will be consigned to irrelevance within the confines of a permanent minority party. The GOP is thus tempting black political officials with the opportunity to become bigger fish in the junior pond. 
What would C. J. McLin do?[1]

These black state reps would be further weakened if HB 194 — the ballot access-restriction measure— takes effect this week. Opponents of the measure must file 231,000 valid signatures with the Ohio Secretary of State by Thursday to delay its immediate implementation of that law and give Ohio voters a chance to ratify or reject it next year.

Careful readers will note that I wrote the “net effect of gerrymandering may produce more black elected officials who would be functionally irrelevant. Rendering impotent a core Democratic constituency is undoubtedly the GOP aim. For them only thing better is the possibility that some of these black officials would switch parties to enhance their effectiveness. The diabolical aspect of this possibility is that Republicans, who have been unable to win the hearts and minds of the black electorate by policy advocacy, would gain inroads into the black community by underhandedness.

While I denounce their tactics, the blame would belong elsewhere if they succeeded.

[1] C. J. McLin Jr. (1921 - 1988) was elected an Ohio State Representative in 1966 and quickly became one of the most influential leaders in the history of Ohio. The Dayton area politician was a formidable legislator who achieved numerous victories during his 22 years in office. He was a founder of what is today known as the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and is enshrined in Ohio’s Civil Rights Hall of Fame.


Anonymous said...

FWIW, Cuyahoga County currently is represented by four people in Congress - Kucinich, Fudge, LaTourette, and Sutton.

Richard said...

You are correct. Thanks for pointing that out, as I should have. But since the county has lost population, there is less justification for such a split, if there ever was any.

Anonymous said...

Exactly right, Richard. Instead of increasing the size of the districts we now have a sliver of because our population was too large to be contained in merely two districts, they have shattered the county into four largish districts. There is no excuse for that. Instead we should have lost the slivers of districts 3 ad 4 and extended a bit beyond county borders. The clear intent of splitting Cuyahoga, Lucas, Stark and Summit is to weaken Democratic strength in urban areas. It's a shitty, cynical map and no amount of proclaiming "The Democrats would have done it too if they could (doubtful — not to this degree) is going to change its anti-democratic, voter-hating thrust.

As for Columbus, barring the black community uniting around one very strong candidate — like Michael Coleman, who isn't running — it's hard to picture this becoming an AA seat given that the district is only 28 percent AA. It's very far from a majority-minority district.

Anonymous said...

I should have said districts 13 and 14. Sorry.